TeRay Esquibel, RootED’s Partner for Community Partnership and Advocacy, is inspiring change with a new organization, Ednium: The Alumni Collective. TeRay will leave RootED February 1st to lead Ednium.

A RootED grantee, Ednium is a team of Denver Public Schools alumni that provides programs aiming to reinvent education, give leadership training to young alums, and develop new advocacy initiatives.
Participants in Ednium’s programs have identified new district priorities, including broader definitions of student success and a greater emphasis on equity and representation. They are also advocating for ethnic studies and financial literacy courses to become graduation requirements for the district’s students.
“This is reinvesting in the brilliance in our backyard,” Esquibel told Chalkbeat this month. “This is mobilizing the brilliance to be the powerful force for change that we claim we want them to be.”


Read Chalkbeat’s coverage of Ednium here!

Community Identifies Need

Research has shown that students who share the same background as educators, receive more effective role modeling, higher expectations for learning and their future, and have fewer cultural differences. The community’s been calling for an increase the number of effective, diverse and representative leaders across public schools in Denver.

Partner Response

Following an extensive nationwide search, the KIPP Colorado Board of Directors selected Tomi Amos as its new KIPP Colorado CEO. Previously, Tomi served as Executive Director for the Northeast Denver Innovation Zone (NDIZ).

Impact

Tomi’s appointment is historic for Denver: she is the first leader of color of a charter network here, and her ascendance is an inspiration to so many who’ve struggled for generations to improve equitable outcomes in our public schools.  She said, “I have prided myself on working in communities with high populations of English Language Learners, and making sure their identities are affirmed. It’s not acceptable to me to pursue a path where our kids are not celebrating their culture and their heritage and their language in the same way they can learn a new language.”   Tomi was featured on 9News, New CEO for KIPP Colorado Schools makes sure students have equal access to virtual learning.

Community Identifies Need

Communities of color remain disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and the economic downturn. 

Partner Response

Thanks to a community-specific grant from RootED and savings from hosting its annual staff conference remotely, DSST Public Schools were able to support a handful of local businesses owned by people of color.

Impact

More than 800 DSST Public Schools teachers and staff received $40 each in gift cards to businesses owned by people of color. See story on 9News:  DSST Public Schools Gives Back to the Community

Community Identitfies Need

Denver families learned this spring that DPS would face dramatic budget cuts due to the plunge in sales tax, income tax and other revenue streams brought on by the COVID 19 pandemic. Community leaders raised concerns the impact of the pandemic and looming cuts would disproportionately affect students of color, and those whose families earn low incomes.

Partner Response

RootED co-sponsored a series of webinars on school district budget decision making. The discussions covered how school board members could navigate the development of effective school district budgets. In this video, Denver community members shared insights on what they wanted school leaders to keep top of mind as they developed the 2020-2021 budget.

A coalition of education advocate organizations held a press conference June 28 to discuss strategies the Denver Public Schools (DPS) Board of Education should consider before making cuts to the budget.  The school district was facing a budget shortfall of $65 million. A critical message the advocates delivered is that the adopted budget should not exacerbate long-standing inequities in the system, or use stop-gap measures that will ultimately hurt students in the long-term. It must prioritize the educational outcomes for students of color, students with special needs and those who come from low income households.

Impact

The message was livestreamed on 9News and covered on CBS4 and Fox31.

Community Identifies Need

Color-coding school quality based on academic measures had mixed results over the past two decades in Denver.  The School Performance Framework (SPF) has held schools accountable for student academic performance and growth since 2008, predating the state SPF.

It changed over time with shifting assessments and feedback from school leaders and community members. Importantly, many families found the color-coding was not reflective of their values and presented unintended consequences for children’s development (when schools were labeled ‘failing’.)  Last year, DPS began an effort to reevaluate the accountability framework and convened the Reimagine the SPF committee.

Partner Response

RootED commissioned a study with the Denver Journal for Education and Community to look at the ways Denver Public School (DPS) families make decisions about their children’s education and options for schooling. The researchers – Drs. Antwan Jefferson and Plashan McCune – were interested in knowing whether the information provided to parents by DPS included what families consider valuable or important to their decision-making. 

As the Board of Education prepared to deliberate on recommended changes to the School Performance Framework (SPF), the research was helpful for understanding more broadly the guidance that is useful to families, including, but not limited to, the SPF.

Impact 

The report found that families rely upon a range of information sources for school choice, including from the district and individual schools but also from personal experience and their community. The research also found families find the information DPS provides is wanting. Families want to know more. What is the school like?  How does it work? And how does it reflect our community context?
RootED will support the district implementation of the Reimagine SPF Committee’s recommendations numbers 2 and 3, to design a dashboard providing this information and to focus on accountability for continuous improvement around academics, whole child and school culture and climate. Read more about RootED’s key takeaways from the DJEC study here.

Community Identifies Need

Recent demonstrations against police brutality have brought attention to the implicit bias and systemic racism in many of the institutions in our country. Young people who want to change deficit narratives about people of color need support in order to redefine the standards that have been placed upon them.

Partner Response

Young Aspiring Americans for Social and Political Activism (YAASPA) endeavors to build the self-efficacy of youth who desire to make change in our communities, pursue social science degrees, and social justice careers.  The organization encourages and supports disengaged and underserved youth to participate in their communities socially and politically, in order to make changes within the community. YAASPA works with middle school through college students to support them to be civically engaged in community and career, to build their academic and career efficacy, civic literacy and racial identity.

Impact

A core group of students has participated in YAASPA for much of their teenage years and learned a lot about advocacy and how to effect change. They have made lasting change on issues such as transit equity and concurrent enrollment.  Learn more about YAASPA via their website, and this video.

Community Identifies Need

A 2014 report by the Colorado Department of Higher Education found that the remediation rate for African American students at the state’s four-year institutions was 55.2% compared to remediation rates for whites of 18.5%. 

Partner Response

FaithBridge founders grew up in Denver and appreciate the power of churches to mobilize for change.  Their website states, “When we operate as a collective, we are positioned to shift the paradigm of possibilities expeditiously for every child.” The strength of FaithBridge flows from the ability of the Faith community to unite around a single cause, with a single focus and a single voice—to ensure every child in Denver can get a high-quality education without restrictions or limitations of any kind.

Impact

FaithBridge is rising as a prominent voice for children, advocating to unleash the brilliance in every child, insisting that young people must be heard as they articulate their desires for better.  See the FaithBridge mission video here, and work to support families during the pandemic here.  FaithBridge has also worked to support school leaders in their efforts to lift up students and their accomplishments, despite the challenges of the pandemic.  See coverage of the extraordinary graduation ceremony for the Noel Community Arts School Class of 2020 on CBS4 School & Principal Rally Around Graduating Class and 9News School Gets Creative to Celebrate Grads.

Community Identifies Need

In their efforts to create healthy and equitable learning environments, Rocky Mountain Prep (RMP) has focused on social-emotional learning for some time, but recently wanted to do more for its students and school culture.  RMP Berkeley Principal Sara Striegel said, “When we looked into ‘how do we create authentic social emotional learning, how do we help our children navigate relationships and navigate their own emotions and navigate the emotions of their teacher,’ we realized that the teaching of discrete skills or one social skill a day was not enough.”   

Partner Response

In the fall of 2019, RMP launched a new social-emotional learning program. Compass Circles, originally created by Valor Collegiate Academies in Nashville, provides a framework for schools to host regular group conversations that allow participants to check in on how they are doing mentally/emotionally and support their peers and colleagues in doing the same.  Students now have a structured environment to share the many elements of their lives outside the classroom.

“Each week, Circle reminds us we are all human. We are multi-faceted and every part of our individual story matters. We believe students and adults benefit from being recognized as individuals and deserve to be seen as the complex people we are,” writes Chief People Officer Sarah Lynch.

Impact

In a recent survey, 96% of RMP staff agreed or strongly agreed that Student Circle, if done well, is an important experience for our students. Teacher Ellie Roberts reports, “You’re more willing to take risks when you know you’re in a safe space and you know the people around you see you love you and hear you.  So I think it’s done wonders for their academics especially in regards to taking risks and being ok with maybe not being right all of the time.”  Learn more about the RMP Compass Circle program in this video.  CBS4 showcased the Rocky Mountain Prep program in this story:  New Program At Rocky Mountain Prep Helping Kids To ‘Get Out Of Their Shell’ During Virtual Learning

Community Identifies Need

Our Turn is asking the Denver Board of Education to pass and fund a resolution mandating that all schools hire at least one full-time mental health counselor; train all district staff on trauma-informed practices each year; and hire counselors who are predominately people of color to be reflective of the students they work with.

Partner Response

Our Turn is developing a new generation of civic leaders who are passionate about educational equity. Using the media, they spread the word about their organizing work and campaigns, including the fight for more mental health supports.  

Impact

Our Turn students petitioned the Board of Education last fall to pass their mental health resolution and continue to advocate for reforms. The Class of 2020’s Amelia Federico, of DSST Byers, published this piece in Chalkbeat:  The pandemic has been hard on students like me. It’s time to boost mental health support in schools.

Community Identifies Need

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is central to Highline’s mission and vision. 

The Highline community was seeking opportunities for its staff, students, parents and community members to grow and tackle unconscious bias and discriminatory practices.

Partner Response

Highline Academy partnered with Dr. Aaron Griffen to host two workshops, one for parents and another for students, to provide a space where they could unpack their lived experiences and gain new tools to navigate difficult conversations about race and racism. 

Impact

Students, parents and educators give the training high marks. Highline is eager to continue offering these DEI learning opportunities as it seeks to become a leader in creating equity in education.  See a video on the initiative here.